"Yuri Gagarin was the first person to see the Earth from space and was struck by its beauty, its fragility and humanity's duty to protect it," he added.
Personally, I was overwhelmed by the attendance at this launch event, it was a wonderful sight. The enthusiasm for the future of spaceflight, not just in the UK and Russia but for the entire human race, was tangible.
Could this be a sign that the UK's attitude toward space investment is warming? Possibly. But in the back of my mind, I'm concerned the new UK government may not grasp the investment that is needed to get the UK back to the global stage of manned spaceflight and exploration.
The commercial satellite industry is obviously thriving, will David Cameron's government increase funding to support the burgeoning UKSP? In the US, President Obama may be gunning to scrap the Constellation Program, but overall funding to NASA has increased. Does the US example demonstrate a global change in attitude to science spending as a means to inspire, innovate and bolster economies? I think only time will tell.
Interestingly, Chris Welch's day job is actually lecturing space systems at Kingston University, London, and he is also an International Space University (ISU) Faculty Member (ISU is located in Strasbourg, France). In a very exciting turn of events, Chris invited to give a presentation at the ISU's Space Studies Program 2010 in July, where I'll be alongside space experts discussing the pros and cons of asteroid mining.
Why asteroid mining? Well, Greg Fish (guest contributor to Discovery News) and myself have a book in the works examining different aspects of space commercialization. Greg took a critical, business-minded view of pillaging asteroids for profit and found the overheads were astronomical (sorry). So I hope to give a good overview at ISU about our findings.
I'll let you know how it goes!
Image credits (from top): Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament (credit: me), my Parliament pass and YuriGagarin50 invite (credit: me) and Helen Sharman at the microphone launching the event (credit: YG50/Dr B Osborne).
Special thanks to Anita Heward who provided the press release detailing the speaker's quotes.